Up Front and Personal

The Call Came About Amy Winehouse

by Father Frank Mann

I was deeply saddened and stunned when I learned of the recent, sudden (yet perhaps not so unexpected) passing of Amy Winehouse. She was, without doubt, a gifted musician and one of my favorites.
Winehouse, only 27 when she died, was a British singer and songwriter who was primarily known for her deeply moving and powerful contralto vocals, as well as her unique, eclectic mix of variant musical genres — namely soul, jazz and R and B.  She became the first British female to win five Grammy Awards in one shot for her riveting, soul-stirring album titled, Back to Black.
Russell Brand, the British columnist, media personality and comedian, described her voice as “…a wondrous resonance…..an awe that envelops when witnessing a genius.” He stated in a recent tribute that “…her voice seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond… from the font of all greatness. Hers was a voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine.”
However, it was her relentless public deterioration, her ongoing problems with alcohol and drug related abuse/addiction that made headlines and often overshadowed her unbridled talent. In the words of Janis Winehouse (Amy’s mother), her daughter’s openly courting of disaster “… was like watching a car crash — this person throwing all their [sic] gifts away.”
Addiction of any kind will eventually take its tumultuous toll. The scope of addiction is an insidious and virulent bondage that entraps the human spirit, albeit often the most vulnerable, fragile, and sensitive individuals.
The venomous talons of addiction gnaw the soul and likewise both sting and paralyze, suffocate and immobilize.
Denial is one of the most relentless obstacles in the treatment of addiction.  It prevents those with such variant issues from seeing the truth about their problem(s). Addicts need sure and certain help — and their specific disconnect from reality that denial provides them prevents such folk from seeing that they need timely intervention. The vicious cycle of denial and rationalizations allow the addict to continue behavior that is destructive to both themselves and the ones they so dearly love.
Brand, a recovering addict himself (clean since 2002), poignantly states in his Winehouse tribute, “The priority of the addict is to anesthetise the pain of living, to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.  Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death.”
Brand further cautions, “Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy Winehouse had, but we all know alcoholics and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there.”
“When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call,” he wrote. “And, there will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you that they have had enough and they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Or perhaps not.  Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it is too late, they are gone. Either way, the phone call will come.”

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